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Universities raising awareness of food insecurity among students as fall semester kicks off

Tylar O’Neal-White, a student advocate and case manager at Wright State, said the food insecurity can go largely unnoticed on campus.
Erin Pence
/
Courtesy Wright State University
Tylar O’Neal-White, a student advocate and case manager at Wright State, said the food insecurity can go largely unnoticed on campus.

Nearly 40% of college students experience food insecurity. As fall semester begins, some local colleges like Wright State University are doing something to make sure students don’t go hungry.

Basic needs like food access continue to be an issue among college students. Even more so for non-traditional students who might be the main breadwinners in their households.

Non-traditional students can include older students who might be financially independent, working a full-time job or parenting.

Additionally, the number of college students with low household incomes has increased, according to a 2019 Feeding America survey. With rising grocery prices, meeting those basic needs can become more challenging.

Tylar O’Neal-White, a student advocate and case manager at Wright State, said the issue can go largely unnoticed on campus.

“People don't understand how common it is,” O’Neal-White said. “If you're hungry, you're not going to be able to study. That's just the way the hierarchy of needs works.”

To help with that, some colleges like Wright State University run food pantries. The pantry serves about ten students on a slow day, sometimes more. The pantry opened back in 2011 as the university realized it needed more resources for food insecure students.

There’s also a free lunch program for any student to pick up by the pantry. The brown bags might have simple meals like noodles with a breakfast bar or fruit.

O’Neal-White said finding solutions to meeting the basic needs of college students also means changing how people perceive poverty in college.

“It is important for people to understand that the broke college student story isn't healthy and it's not sustainable,” We need more resources for students to meet their basic needs. Including more food pantries.

Some college students can be eligible for SNAP. There’s also resources available at most universities. O’Neal-White said her office is always open and willing to help students find resources.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming